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ASCO in Action Podcast

Dec 10, 2019

In the latest ASCO in Action Podcast, ASCO CEO Dr. Clifford A. Hudis, discusses updates that will affect oncologists in the 2020 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule final rule, which outlines changes to Part B reimbursement policies and the Quality Payment Program 

ASCO’s goal will always be “to ensure that oncologists can provide the right treatment, at the right time,” says Dr. Hudis, “and we aim to help CMS implement policies that advance that goal.” 

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Disclaimer: The purpose of this podcast is to educate and to inform. This is not a substitute for professional medical care and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of individual conditions. Guests on this podcast express their own opinions, experience, and conclusions. The mention of any product, service, organization, activity, or therapy should not be construed as an ASCO endorsement.  

Dr. Clifford Hudis: Welcome to the ASCO in Action Podcast, brought to you by the ASCO Podcast Network, a collection of 9 programs covering a range of educational and scientific content and offering enriching insight into the world of cancer care. You can find all of the shows, including this one, at

The ASCO in Action Podcast is ASCO’s podcast series that explores the policy and practice issues that impact oncologists, the entire cancer care delivery team, and the individuals we care for—people with cancer.

I’m Dr. Clifford Hudis, CEO of ASCO and the host of the ASCO in Action podcast series. For this podcast, I wanted to provide a quick update on an important announcement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which of course we refer to as CMS on this podcast.

In early November, the agency released its final rule for the 2020 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule—commonly referred as the “physician fee schedule”—and other changes to Medicare Part B reimbursement policies, including proposed updates to the Quality Payment Program.  

Just to review, the physician fee schedule is a complete listing of fees that Medicare uses to pay doctors or other providers and suppliers. It is also a comprehensive listing of maximum fees that is updated each year and used to reimburse providers on a fee-for-service basis.

At ASCO, we always review this rule closely and assess its likely impact our members and, most importantly, our patients.

The top takeaway from the rule is that CMS estimates a zero percent overall impact for the hematology/oncology and radiation oncology specialties in 2020.

Though it’s important to note that the actual impact on individual physician practices will depend on the mix of services the practice provides, and practices in certain states may see a change due to the elimination of the 1.0 threshold previously applied to the geographic practice cost indices.

CMS also finalized provisions to align Evaluation & Management (or E&M) coding with changes laid out by the CPT Editorial Panel for office/outpatient E&M visits.

This is a welcomed update that comes after ASCO and other stakeholders expressed concerns that earlier CMS proposals to consolidate E&M codes would have diminished the resources available to care for Medicare beneficiaries with cancer.

We appreciate the fact that CMS listened to our perspective and revised its plans to better serve people with cancer.

The physician fee schedule rule also finalizes updates to the Quality Payment Program for 2020 and beyond.

A key update to the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (or MIPS)—one of the Quality Payment Program’s two tracks—is that all four MIPS performance categories will remain at their 2019 weights in 2020, but the performance threshold, which is the minimum total MIPS score needed to avoid a negative payment adjustment will increase to 45 points in 2020 (up from 30 points in 2019).

CMS also finalized its plan to establish “MIPS Value Pathways” (or MVPs) beginning in 2021.

CMS has described MVPs as a way to reduce the burden of participating in MIPS and for CMS to collect more meaningful performance data.

The MVP framework would connect activities and measures from the four MIPS performance categories that are relevant to a patient population, a medical specialty, or a specific medical condition such as cancer.

For years, ASCO has encouraged the use of high-quality oncology clinical pathways to help ensure patient access to high-quality, high-value cancer care. We are hopeful that this provision in the CMS final rule is a move in the right direction.

We have also appreciated CMS’ recent efforts to reduce administrative burden for providers. MVPs, if implemented appropriately, may help improve the quality and accessibility of cancer care. We will continue to work closely with CMS as it implements this new provision.

I hope this summary of the updates to the physician fee schedule for 2020 was helpful to our listeners.

Our ultimate goal is always to ensure that oncologists can provide the right treatment, at the right time, and we aim to help CMS implement policies that advance that goal.

To that end we will submit detailed comments on the final rule during the open comment period, to ensure CMS understands the needs of the oncology community, and the full impact this rule is likely to have.

If you’d like more information on Medicare physician reimbursement in 2020, please visit the ASCO in Action website at

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The ASCO in Action Podcast is just one of ASCO’s many podcasts; you can find all of the shows at

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